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A Commentary from Srimad Bhagavad-gita


His Divine Grace

Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaja

Once, Bhaktivinoda Thakur had a dream in which he was wandering in the sky chanting the holy name. He came upon the court of Yamaraja, where Yamaraja himself was sitting with Brahma, Narada, and others discussing a point from a verse in Bhagavad-gita (9.30):

api cet suduracaro

bhajate mam ananya-bhak

sadhur eva sa mantavyah

samyag vyavasito hi sah

The generally accepted meaning of this verse is: “Even if one commits the most abominable action, if he is an ananya-bhak devotee who worships Me alone in devotional service which is free from karma and jnana, he is to be considered saintly because his endeavors are completely on My behalf and his determination is fixed.”

Here, Krishna says, “Whatever he has done, if he is exclusively given to Myself, he should be considered as My devotee. Samyag vyavasito hi sah. And whatever he is doing is cent percent right.” But then the next passage says ksipram bhavati dharmatma: “very soon he will be a man of righteousness; he will become dharmatma – dutiful.”

As Yamaraja, Brahma, and Narada discussed this point, a question came up. Krishna says, bhajate mam ananya-bhak, “one who is My exclusive devotee.” The question arises, “What is exclusive devotion or ananya-bhajana?” Krishna says, “Give up all other religious conceptions and surrender to Me alone”: sarva dharman parityajya, mam ekam saranam vraja. That is exclusive devotion. But if one is practicing exclusive devotion, then he is already dharmatma, he is already righteous. How is it then that in the very next verse, Krishna says “soon he becomes dharmatma”? How are we to adjust this? Krishna says (Bhagavad-gita (9.31)):

ksipram bhavati dharmatma

sasvac-chantim nigacchati

kaunteya pratijanihi

na me bhaktah pranasyati

“He soon becomes righteous (dharmatma) and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.”

This is the general meaning of this verse. Krishna tells Arjuna, “He soon becomes dharmatma. My devotee is never ruined. Go and declare this to the public.” Krishna says that after the devotee became ananya-bhak – that is, he gave up all sorts of duties and surrendered to Krishna – then again he will be a dutiful man.

As Brahma, Narada, and Yamaraja discussed this point, they saw Bhaktivinoda Thakura walking in the sky and taking the holy name. Then one of them suggested, “There is a pure devotee. He should be able to give the real meaning.” Then Bhaktivinoda Thakura was invited in their midst and was asked, “How shall we adjust these points? Krishna has said that this person is an exclusive devotee, that he has renounced all sorts of duties and surrendered to Krishna. And yet, in no time it will be seen that he is very dutiful. How can we understand this?”

Bhaktivinoda Thakura explained that “he quickly becomes righteous” refers not to the exclusive devotee, but to one who considers the exclusive devotee pure in all circumstances. “Even if he performs some abominable act, he is really a sadhu, a saint.” One who can think of an exclusive devotee in that way will soon become dharmatma. This was Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s explanation.

In this way, in my commentary on Bhagavad-gita, I have followed Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s explanation. I also saw that it was redundant to say that an ananya-bhak devotee becomes dharmatma. Krishna says that an exclusive devotee should be thought of as a sadhu, an honest man. One who says that an exclusive devotee, a surrendered soul to Krishna, should be thought of as pure whatever be his external practices – the man who is making this remark – he becomes righteous. This is the proper conclusion. What he says is cent percent truth. And the next thing Krishna says is that he who can remark in such a way will be purified very soon.

Krishna says that by such appreciation of the exclusive devotee, a person will soon come to his eternal duty and attain eternal peace. “So I ask you, O son of Kunti, Arjuna, to go and promise in public that My exclusive devotee will never be lost” (kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhakta pranasyati). Then you will get the benefit of the man whose remark improves his life.

Otherwise, why should Krishna tell Arjuna, “Make a public announcement that My devotee is never ruined.” What effect will there be for Arjuna? But one who declares: “an exclusive devotee of Krishna is saintly no matter what he does,” soon becomes righteous. If Arjuna declares this, he will become dharmatma. He will get the benefit. So Krishna tells him, “You make this remark. Take a bold step; take a risk and make this remark. Then you will also get that benefit I have described.”

Of course, Arjuna is a parsada, an eternal associate of Krishna, but using him as an example, Krishna tells him, “You do it.” Arjuna has taken the position of an inquirer independent of his parsada character.

When I was publishing my commentary on Bhagavad-gita, a godbrother once told me, “If you give such an explanation, then in the name of ananya-bhak-bhakti, exclusive devotion, less advanced devotees will take advantage of this. What you are revealing here is a very hidden meaning. It is not meant for the public. It is a confidential point: api cet su-duracaro bhajate mam ananya-bhak, sadhur eva: ‘He may be the worst debauchee in his outer life. But if he is ananya-bhak, a surrendered soul, he should be considered a really honest man.’ If you explain things according to your interpretation, everyone will say, ‘Oh, I am anananya-bhak devotee,’ and they will go on with their debauchery. So please don’t express this interpretation of yours so explicitly.”

But I published my commentary over this objection because the principle underlying this verse is an important one. One who has surrendered to Krishna is accepted as his own. And just as Krishna has rights over everything and is never a trespasser, so his own man should never be considered a trespasser at any time. This is confirmed elsewhere, in the Srimad-Bhagavatam: atma bhuyaya ca kalpate, “My devotee belongs to Me.” So one who works by inspiration from Krishna should never be considered a trespasser. He can enjoy anything on Krishna’s behalf if he is really a surrendered soul. He should be considered as Krishna’s. He has free access to everything that belongs to Krishna. But some objected, saying, “Don’t be so broad in your interpretation. If you do so, then the people at large will do abominable things in the name of pure devotion. They will say, ‘Oh, I am Vaisnava. I am acyuta-gotra, I am one of Krishna’s own men. What is his property is mine. I can enjoy everything.’”

Then of course the question comes, “How do we recognize ananya-bhak-bhakti, exclusive devotion? The real trouble is here. Merely professing that I am a pure devotee won’t do. Rather, a real devotee will think, “I am not a real devotee.” That will be his understanding, his inner feeling. Exclusive devotion is not a small thing. A genuine devotee thinks, “I can’t be an ananya-bhak-bhakta. I have not attained that stage. It is very difficult. Rather I am going away from that.” That will be the general tenor of his attitude.

What to speak of lesser devotees, Srimati Radharani Herself says, “People associate me with Krishna. They say that I have an illicit connection with Krishna. But what they say is all false. My grief is that I could not give my entire heart to Krishna. I cannot say that I am completely His. My internal trouble is that I could not become wholly His and they falsely think that I am. I have no objection to becoming fully His, even to having an illicit connection with Him; but that I can’t become so, this is my great fault.” That will be the general attitude of a real ananyabhak-bhakta.

Just the opposite tendency will come. The fact is that one who has accepted Krishna exclusively has no taste for any other thing, so really he is not duracara; he is not capable of acting in an abominable way. Internally he is always connected with Krishna. In external life he is indifferent. So what he is doing is not done by him. One who acts in that plane of reality may destroy thousands of universes, but does not do anything (hatvapi sa imal lokan na hanti na nibadhyate). He is acting in the transcendental plane, the nirguna plane. He is not to be seen in terms of what is good or bad in the calculation of this world. He is absent here.

What is in connection with Krishna is all good; it is nirguna, transcendental, without material qualities. In this world, truth is a relative thing. “This is true, this is not true, this is mine, this is yours,” – what value do these things have? If a devotee steals a flower for Krishna, you may say, “Oh, why are you stealing my flower?” But what is the guarantee that the flower belongs to you? These are different stages of bogus conceptions of reality. A man who has possession of some land declares himself the owner. Then a big landowner comes and says, “You are not the owner. I have real possession of this land. I have allowed you only to use it.” But beyond the landowner a king may come and say, “Oh no, this is my land. Your ownership is only relative. I am the ruler of this land. It belongs to me.” In this way one relative conception of truth fights with another. And morality stands only on this conception: “this is mine, this is yours.”

All these conceptions of ownership are false. All these transactions of morality are false, because they are not in connection with the Supreme Truth. So the devotee’s apparent misbehavior is quite the contrary in reality.

‘dvaite’ bhadrabhadra-jnana, saba –‘manodharma’

‘ei bhala, ei manda’, – ei saba ‘bhrama’

Chaitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila 4.176

“In the material world, conceptions of good and bad or right and wrong are all mental concoctions. Therefore, saying, ‘This is good and this is bad’ is all a mistake.” So in the deepest plane of reality, the deepest wave of Krishna consciousness is moving, and there so many jiva souls are dancing. And that dance is the absolute dance wherein everything surrenders to Krishna in the mood of Vrndavana: sarva dharman parityajya mam ekam. Everything belongs to Krishna, and for His satisfaction anything and everything can be done. This is the only principle followed by the exclusive devotees without caring for the many relative demands and strictures of this false plane. That is nirguna, transcendental. In that plane the calculation of false ownership can’t be applied. All claims of ownership have no value in Krishna consciousness.

There is another point that may also be considered in this verse. Once, Parasara Muni was crossing a river. A young lady was piloting the boat. As the boat reached the middle of the river, Parasara suddenly became charmed by that young lady. He proposed that they unite, and they did. As a result of their union, Vedavyasa was born. Parasara was already a man of higher sense control. But the time had come for the birth of Vyasa, and this created a necessity at a particular stage in him. Suddenly he was overwhelmed by lust and united with that lady. From their union came Vyasadeva, the compiler of all the Vedic scriptures. So this was the determination of the Universal Will. Parasara is not to be accused or condemned. He is not a party to that. He is an instrument of the Universal Will. We should not consider this an event of lustfulness and criticize Parasara for his immoral action. He was inspired by some inner will and overpowered by the divine force of the nirguna will of Krishna. Only then did these things take place.

Therefore Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that it is not the action, but the background of the action that is to be considered. That is to be examined, not the action alone. The motive underlying the action, not the karma, but the purpose – that is the culprit. Draupadi had five husbands, but not of her own accord. She had to accept the trouble as her duty; she did not do so for the sake of pleasure. So Draupadi should not be held responsible for this; it cannot be said that she is unchaste. She cannot be held responsible for having many husbands. It is said in the sastra that Draupadi or Kunti may seem to be unchaste, but if you chant their names you will be purified. So the internal meaning of an act, its purpose, should be considered – not the external action.

The higher principle is served not by following ordinary law, but by following some higher law. In that case, the ordinary law is surpassed. One might think a devotee a culprit from the consideration of ordinary law, but from the consideration of a higher law, Krishna has said that if you can appreciate their law-breaking, you will be uplifted.

ajnayaivam gunan dosan

mayadistan api svakan

dharman santyajya yah sarvan

mam bhajeta sa tu sattamah

Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.11.32

Krishna says, “The rules of the scriptures come from My direction, My order. But if anyone breaks those rules to satisfy Me, he should be considered a better devotee.” Sometimes it may be necessary to show even greater loyalty to the king by crossing over the laws of the king. So here God is above law. When we consider the nature of divinity, we must conclude that Krishna is above law. Law is for us. But law may not be applied in His case. He is absolute. When one has actually come in connection with the Absolute, he cannot but ignore the laws meant for ordinary people. Of course, this means in a higher sense. It is not that devotees shall not observe the ordinary laws governing society in the name of devotion. But in the higher sense we have to understand that Krishna is all in all. He is the creator of law and He Himself sometimes breaks the law and especially likes those who are ready to break the law for Him. They are His favorite who are ready to take risks for His service, who are ready to bear the consequence of breaking the law.

This is the nature of Krishna’s entire vraja-lila. In Vrndavana, all considerations of individual and local interest are sacrificed. In Vrndavana, there is the highest self-sacrifice, to the degree that everyone’s own particular interest or consideration is sacrificed into fire. Only when you come to that stage of self-sacrifice can you take birth in Vrndavana; not before. This is the conclusion of Bhagavad-gita.

sarva-dharman parityajya

mam ekam saranam vraja

aham tvam sarva-papebhyo

moksayisyami ma sucah

Krishna says, “You must risk all your prospects, you must risk everything, with no prospects other than Myself. I cannot tolerate the presence of any second entity in your heart. I cannot tolerate that you will come to Me with some consideration. My relation with you must be unconditional. I can’t tolerate any other interest in the heart of My devotee. Only one interest, and that is Me. Sacrifice all your so-called interests, all your prospects, everything. Then you can come to meet Me in Vrndavana.”

Faith is firm conviction that by serving Krishna all other purposes are automatically served.

- His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaja

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